As far as alluring film titles and lurid thrillers go, giallo films have always ruled the roost, and The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is no exception. Emilio Miraglia's Italian thriller is a lesser known product of the prolific giallo craze of the early ‘70s but a surprisingly unique experience for giallo die-hards and sub-genre first timers alike.
The first thing that really hits when watching, are the overt gothic themes, which help to make this more than a simple giallo, just as the giallo stylisms make this more than a simple Euro Gothic experience. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is nothing if not a fascinating snapshot of the transitioning horror genre at the end of the 60's. There's the perverted aristocrat murdering redheads in a crumbling manor, supernatural occurrences, family feud, brutal, terror from beyond the grave. All of them staples of classic Gothic literature and film.
Then there's the profitable practice of censor-baiting, nudity and graphic violence, drug-using, sexually promiscuous socialites, and the twisting, perhaps illogical, narrative Giallo films often use. Yet Evelyn never feels as dopey or exploitative as many mid-70s Italian films did. Its too well-filmed for that. Miraglia's film shares much of its finesse with Lucio Fulci's Lizard in a Woman's Skin (also released 1971) and, like Fulci, owes much to the work of giallo founder Mario Bava.
The colouring is stunning, but not as fantastical as Bava sometimes gets, Evelyn ditches the overt modernity of giallo in favour for the shadowy blood red world of classic Italian Gothic. Scenes seem directly constructed to enjoy the transition from ‘60s to ‘70s, or classic to contemporary. One sequence has Alan (Anthony Steffen) and his red-haired victim wandering through the cobwebbed dilapidation of the castle, only to arrive in a sleek affluent living space full of J&B bottles, fur, and fancy ‘70s light shades.
Steffen storms around the castle in various velvet and suede flared ensembles, the prize piece being a long black velvet religious-looking gown he wears for his kinky sex murders. It’s a very 1971 take on Dracula imagery, but a very Dracula take on the giallo killer. More surprising that the film's protagonist is a murderous fetishist slowly losing grip on his sanity. The violent impulsiveness makes Alan look like a 70's update of The Whip and the Body's Kurt Menliff, and a stark precursor to American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. Steffen, a western star, doesn’t really have the range for the emotional stuff, but does well as a ticking time bomb of psycho-sexual frustration.
Aside from its interest as a genre artefact, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is a beautifully fulfilled piece of film. The cinematography is on point, it’s nasty, glamorous, seductive, silly, and for a genre defined by the work of only a handful of composers, Maraglia's giallo benefits from the unique scoring of Bruno Nicolai. In the end, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave doesn’t quite pull off its shocking twist but there's so much on offer that it's well worth checking out.
THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: EMILIO MIRAGLIA / SCREENPLAY: MASSIMO FELISATTI, FABIO PITTORRU, EMILIO MIRAGLIA / STARRING: ANTHONY STEFFEN, MARINA MALFATTI, ERIKA BLANC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW